Modern design means its impossible to make bad coffee. Good looking item for the guy who just wants a good coffee without risking getting it so very wrong.
Positive Product Points
If you want espresso, fresh, now, and consistently good, you cant go wrong with this design - its made easy, for everyone - no skill required due to the technical advancement in espresso making. You wont be able to master your barrista skills as most of the risk is taken away (bad grind, bad/level tamper)
Negative Product Points
Not as 'posh' as high end espresso makers (classic unpressurised portafilter), less chrome etc. Milk frother/warmer is a pain to use Cup warmer on top not really any good unless the devices has been on for a while No height adjustment
This is a modern, pressurised portafilter design. Its cheaper to make, hence the good price, but still makes a high pressure espresso using some clever trickery. Firstly A) Pressurised portafilters do not rely on the fine-ness of the ground to build up the pressure (reliance on an expensive grinder eliminated), b) The tamper is not as important (again because of the pressurised portafilter). You also do not have boilers to worry about or service.
Now, you’re asking what IS a pressurised portafilter (I thought all espresso was pressurised) and you’d be right however, in the cheaper espresso makers, you have two differences. A) there is no boiler as the water is forced by a pump, at 15bar (which youd think is too high - you now know why) through a tight red hot S bend, b) the Portafilter has a valve which causes the build up of pressure NOT the beans themselves. Because of this the 'sorcery' around espresso is taken away, the tamper you gave does not affect it as much (you still need to though), the variables that normally ruin a shot are gone (the fine-ness of the ground, how well you tampered etc. The only thing you can get wrong is a) using bad coffee, b) forgetting to tamper, c) not enough coffee int he portafilter. Thats it.
This means there is less reliance on the end user to go spend $250+ on a grinder that takes up most of your kitchen. This basically alloys common man (or woman) to enjoy a high pressure espresso, ground freshly that morning (with a delonghi burr grinder), that tastes great (even with a great Crème) all for under $300. Genius design.
I tested the theory and bought all sorts of coffee ground to different levels designed for different machines/units, and the results were good, each and every time i got good strong tasting coffee with a nice beer like head (creme) that took 20+ second to pull. The only time I didnt get good results was with stale coffee (expected) or very coarse ground coffee (designed for french press). So the variables arent eliminated completely BUT they are reduced, meaning you can get a shot any time of day without thinking about it (house members can also get involved and make you a coffee!)
Dont get me wrong you can still 'play' with different beans, grinds and levels of coffee in the portafilter, you just reduce your chance of a bad pull thanks to the design
Would I buy again? Probably - just because I know the family don't care how the coffee is made (who hasn't bored the ear off someone in theirs) - and so for that point its irreplaceable, however if i want to develop coffee making into a hobby, I would look for more classic designs (however, this then means I will have to make ALL shots int he house!) so, for now, this design is spot on, I get my coffee and get out.
car boot sale - what can I say, i got a bargain, brand new! (but I would spend the retail price for this unit as its great).
Three Month Followup
Still going strong, I will say I have found one issue, if I grind too fine, fill too much or press too hard it expresses a terrible brew and p*sses coffee out of the handle and grounds in the cup - so, its not a super high pressure jobby, but if you want a good long shot, im still very happy - recommend replacing the porter filter mesh each year - you can clean do your own with a pin, but its not perfect (hold the filter up to a fast flowing tap, watch the spray, if its uneven, replace.